Many of us remember well the school days of our youth. There seemed to be little thought of keeping schools in lockdown or worrying about who might enter and pose a danger to the children within. We played freely in loosely fenced playgrounds that offered little in terms of equipment but plenty as backdrop for our childhood games.
Sad to say, those free and happy days of decades ago are gone, especially in the wake of Sandy Hook where even the littlest children were not spared.
In the North Middlesex Regional School District, new Superintendent Joan Landers did what others in her position are doing: Reevaluating the safety protocols in place and updating nervous parents, now looking with furrowed brow at the schoolbuildings that house their own precious children.
Last week, she spearheaded a school safety forum that brought together not only school administrators and interested parents but the law enforcement professionals who know best how to respond to this dangerous world in which we live.
Among the experts on the panel -- Townsend Police Chief Erving Marshall, Pepperell Police Chief David Scott, and representatives from the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council's School Threat Assessment Response System team and the Middlesex Partnerships for Youth.
Parents were told about the impressive list of professional resources available to the district in the event of an emergency and the preplanning already in place.
While these resources are no doubt important, consider that at Sandy Hook, 20 children and six adults were killed in the school before law enforcement arrived and that had the gunman presented himself for entry into the locked school, he would have been admitted. He was a member of the community.
Locked doors and surveillance cameras are necessary in today's schools, but so are people charged with determining admittance into schools and the development of a safe environment that discourages bullying and encourages open and respectful dialogues between students and the adults in their environs.
And as a society, we are sorely in need of a new and responsible approach to those with mental illness and we must revisit our laws governing gun ownership, storage and responsibility.
Threats to the nation's schoolchildren are many and answers to these threats lie far beyond locked doors.
Hopefully, we will take real steps toward addressing these threats before the outrage of Sandy Hook dies away.